Welcome to the she-shed
The female equivalent of the 'man cave' is all about comfort and peace
Jenny Keatings lives in a 1,200 sq ft, three-bed bungalow in Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, which she recently extended. But when she needs a break from her husband and two sons, she nips out the back door and into her she-shed.
She's not the only one. An increasing number of Irish women who feel spent at home and stressed out at work are turning to new ways to escape the daily grind - in their own gardens.
The she-shed, a small, distinctively feminine hideaway, tucked down the end of the garden, offers the perfect solution.
Such is their appeal that Homebase and B&Q report that sales of she-sheds have risen by more than 50pc in recent years.
For most it is a simple garden shed. Others take shape in summerhouses, garages, beach huts and even posh outdoor rooms.
They offer women a place to indulge in some much-needed alone time as well as a space for hobbies, music room, gym, art studio or office.
Hailed as the female equivalent of the 'man cave', the she-shed is all about the interior design and is more likely to be kitted out with chandeliers and DIY hanging lanterns than games consoles, gadgets and projector screens.
"I love the fact that I can be as daring and girly with the decor as I like and get away with it," says Jenny Keatings of her prettily painted Bohemian she-shed.
Inside Jenny has kitted it out with an upcycled two-seater sofa, a rug, lamp, lockers and various finds picked up in car boot sales or from her travels. She rescued a chiminea headed for the skip and has filled it with candles and decorated the walls with postcards and images from Vanity Fair.
Jenny's shed, or parts of it, was salvaged from an old garden shed that her husband Connor, an avid sheddie enthusiast, had converted into a shebeen called the Monkey Bar. He's since upgraded to a bigger shed for the bar.
"The original idea was to turn it into a kids' den but they'd no interest in it at all - probably because it has no electricity. Conor then wanted to take it over but I quickly ruled against him having two sheds to himself and so it became my personal retreat.
"A neighbour added an overhang, which a tree runs right up through, and a small decked area so I can sit outside and enjoy the garden.
"It's so hard these days to find time for oneself. This shed allows me a place to escape from it all for a while."
Maree Flanagan of Boyne Garden Sheds, Navan has noticed a steady rise in interest in she-sheds over the years. Sheds for women now account for 75pc of their business.
"Sheds that are nice to look at are especially popular with women and act like a piece of furniture in the garden landscape," says Maree.
Set up in 2006, the family-run company offers a choice of shed styles from the standard brown sheds to pretty cabin¸ cottage, lodge and even Gothic-style sheds which can be finished in a choice of Farrow & Ball colours.
Prices range from €800 for a standard shed with a vinyl coated steel roof to €1,410 for an 8ft by 6ft pressure treated Pavilion shed with a fully insulated roof, and upwards.
In Bellewestown, Co Meath, ex-Aer Lingus cabin crew Karin Morrow has transformed a shed she inherited from her in-laws into a charmingly rustic, Norwegian summerhouse-inspired retreat complete with decking and pretty fencing. The cabin, as Karin lovingly calls it, is nestled right at the back of the garden, surrounded by plants and wildlife.
"This humble little cabin is a place of solace and sanctuary where I can retreat to my own personal haven and forget about what's going on outside," says Karin.
She also uses it for crafting, painting and drawing, playing her guitar, and to make 'granny videos' to send to her grandkids.
The interior is shabby chic, festooned with treasured items from her past and things she's picked up along the way.
She has plans to grow moss on the roof and add a small bathroom and wood-burning stove but for now is quite happy to light some candles and cosy up under reindeer fur with a good book and a coffee and watch the birds and listen to the cattle lowing.
While many use their shed as a retreat, Dubliner Niamh O'Carroll is one of a growing number of women who are transforming their sheds into chic workplaces.
Hers is a purpose built, and slightly more upmarket, garden room from which she runs her own PR company.
"Working from home is great, but being a mum to three teenage kids it can be hard to concentrate when you're being interrupted every five minutes or shuffled from one room to the next.
"Having a room at the end of the garden, that's just mine and decorated how I like, provides much needed sanctuary from family life.
"I can come out here and work, even have associates over, and then just close the doors and go inside and slip back into mummy mode," says Niamh.
At weekends it becomes a multi-purpose family space and has been used to host dinners and birthday parties and even the local kids' cinema club.
John Sherry, managing director of Garden Rooms, which built Niamh's space says: "While a shed for many is a cheap solution, a garden room is an investment and according to studies can add as much as 7pc to the value of your home. They usually don't require planning and work out cheaper per square metre than an extension. We can supply turnkey rooms from as little as €20k."
Such is the growing trend for a female garden bolthole, a book celebrating women sheds around the world, She Sheds: A Room of Your Own by Erika Kotite, was released earlier this year. A online search on the subject reveals thousands of hits while Instagram and Pinterest are awash with shed-proud female owners showing off their beautifully-designed chic retreats.